In a post-truth era, where people are turning to image-led digital channels over print media in search of information, photojournalists have an increasingly vital role in keeping the public informed. But in this rapidly changing media landscape, limited funding and practical training opportunities leave the future of photojournalism uncertain.
Playing its part in securing a future for the industry, Canon has partnered with Magnum Photos at Visa pour l’Image 2017 in Perpignan, France, to run a series of workshops for 200 photography students from around Europe. Throughout Professional Week, 4 to 10 September, leading photographers, including Bieke Depoorter, Lorenzo Meloni, Jérôme Sessini and Larry Towell are sharing their experiences with the next generation.
“We are giving students access to the skills and experience of Magnum photographers as well as practical advice on how to succeed as professional photographers,” says Magnum Photos’ Global Education Manager, Shannon Ghannam. “I’m so excited about photojournalism, and storytelling, and being able to help young photographers launch their careers.”
Today’s young photojournalists have similar motivations to the generations before them. They care about the world and want to document stories that matter. “With photojournalism it is all personal,” says Franklin Aduda, a student at Landesberufsschule Photo + Medien Kiel, in Germany. “What story do I want to tell with what I am putting forward? What kind of ideas do I want to push with my images?”
But the technology and channels they’re using are dictating a change to the way they work. Magazines and newspapers are no longer the main outlet for news consumption. “Social media is replacing the traditional channels,” says Aduda, and it’s a channel he believes will become “more and more relevant”.
Despite their enthusiasm for the potential of social media, the students are well aware of its pitfalls. “Right now we have fake news, which is really problematic, so people have to verify information by using various sources,” says Aduda. “There is the danger that people start to doubt the authenticity of all news, even the genuine stories.”
In a crowded marketplace where there are many photographers capable of shooting high quality images, it’s also becoming harder to stand out. “Image quality is important but at the end of the day, the story itself should be at the heart of the matter,” says Aduda. “Sometimes you might have a beautiful image but without the story, it is just a beautiful picture.”
That doesn’t mean to say that Aduda does not welcome the storytelling opportunities that advances in technology will bring: “Technology is a friend, not an enemy. It is the key ingredient to pushing things forward,” he says.
“But ultimately technology is just a means of recording an image, whether it is analogue, digital, drone or robotic – it’s still not the hard bit,” adds Timothy Haccius from Center Vocational De Vevey in Switzerland. “The key to storytelling will always be knowing what you want to capture, and how.
“Somebody has to do it,” says Haccius. “There is stuff happening everywhere and people want to know what’s going on – that’s human nature. If there is nobody to document it or tell the story, then it’s as if they never existed.”